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Brainwavz BLU-100 Bluetooth IEMs

Rating:
3.70833/5,
  1. Hisoundfi
    Bluetooth bang for your buck. The Brainwavs BLU-100 Bluetooth IEMs
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published May 12, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Solid build and nice case, Functional and easy to use, Works great for phone calls and music, Better than expected sound quality
    Cons - Bulky housings, Mid bass boost
    At the time this review was written, the Brainwavz BLU-100 was on a pre-order sale for $34.50 USD on MP4Nation. Here is a link to a listing of their product at the time of the review.
     
    DSC044201.jpg
     
     
     
    http://www.mp4nation.net/brainwavz-blu-100-bluetooth-4-0-aptx-earphones
     
     
    Introduction
     
    The opportunity to review the Brainwavz SO IEM was a great experience. I ended the review by contacting their product rep, stating that I would like to work with them again and that if they were happy with my review to please contact me for future opportunities. Tonight I have the privilege of covering Brainwavz’ first bluetooth headphone, the BLU-100.
     
     
    Disclaimer
     
    I was given an opportunity to demo the Brainwavs BLU-100 in exchange for my honest review and opinion. I am in no way directly affiliated with their company or brand.
     
     
    My Background
     
    Please allow me to share a little bit about myself so you can better understand my observations. I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely. Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, amplifiers and earphones that intrigues me, ESPECIALLY if they can be had for low prices. I’m a fan of products that give the buyer their money’s worth and more. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, hoping that I can discover models that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones ranging from from dirt cheap, to hundreds of dollars. I’m on a mission to find gear with a great price to performance ratio, report these findings back to the Head-Fi community, and also help those looking for their next piece of audio gear.
     
    With this hobby we often times pay a lot of for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned is that price DOES NOT necessarily indicate good build and sound quality. While everyone’s tastes are different, I hope to share a depiction of what to expect.
     
    I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they have good ergonomics, and their sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have and use.
     
     
    The Package
     
    NOTE: Because this is a demo unit, the BLU-100 did not come in any retail packaging. I do not have any specific information on what to expect for packaging.
     
     
    The BLU-100 came in their customary black and red rectangular clamshell zipper case. The material is a firm molded mesh fabric. The case is exquisite. No complaints in this area.
     
     
    DSC04408.jpg
     
    Here are the official specs:
     
    1. Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 8mm
    2. Rated Impedance: 30ohms Closed Dynamic
    3. Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW
    4. Frequency range: 20 ~ 20000Hz
    5. Bluetooth 4.0 (CSRBC8645) with aptX
    6. Operation max distance: 30ft (10m)
    7. Battery: 60mAh - 4hrs playtime, 100hrs standby, 2hrs for full charge (Micro USB charging)
    8. CVC echo and noise cancellation
    9. Supports voice prompt for MMI: Power on - Paring - Connecting - Battery low - Power off
    10. Supports HFP, HSP and A2DP
    11. Supports pairing with two devices at the same time
    12. 3 button remote, works with Apple iOS products, Android & Windows phones & PC
    13. 1 year warranty

     
     
    DSC04409.jpg
     
    The demo unit came with the following accessories:
     
    1. 1 x Comply foam tips
    2. 3 x Pairs of ear tips (S/M/L)
    3. 1 x Silicone ear clip
    4. 1 x Micro USB cable for charging
    5. 1 x Hard carrying case

     
    Housings
     
    The housings of the BLU-100 are made of a painted metal material and silicone/rubber. The housings are on the larger side, but not overly heavy, and I did get a good seal.
     
    DSC04419.jpg
     
     
     
    Cable & Strain Reliefs
     
    The cable is flat and approximately 18 inches long. On the right side about 5 inches down from the right channel is a three button remote. The cable is made of a smooth rubber coating and seems plenty durable. Strain reliefs seem adequate for daily use.
     
    DSC044201.jpg
     
     
     
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics
     
    The fit on these are a mixed bag in my opinion. I had no problem getting them to fit initially, but due to the large housings I had trouble keeping a seal while moving around. The silicone fins helped secure the housing into place, but even then the silicone would get uncomfortable for me. I also found the cable to be a little bit too long for a wireless device.
     
    DSC04450.jpg
     
    DSC04443.jpg
     
    DSC04434.jpg
     
     
    NOTE: I was able to get them fit securly by using aftermarket ear guides (not included in the package). Using these gave me a great seal and secure fit,  that allowed me to use them while moving around and exercising. The guides counterbalanced the size and clunkiness of the BLU-100 housing.
     
     
    Functionality
     
    This device works effectively and efficiently. There were no major hiccups or bugs to report while using it.
     
    The unit charges via USB. It has a tab on the right housing that opens up to the charging port. The provided USB charging cable plugs into any computer USB port, or be plugged into a USB wall charger. Normal charging time was around 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When testing, the battery on the BLU-100 died after a little over 4 hours of continuous streaming music. The charging indicator is a single white light that emits from the inline remote. It will shine while charging, and shut off when charging is complete.
     
    The device powers on when holding the center button on the inline remote. Continuing to hold the button after the device powers on will put the device in pairing mode. The connection is made by finding it in the settings menu of bluetooth device you are going to use as a source. Holding the center button after the power has been turned on will turn the power off. Double tapping the center button while connected to my LG-G3 phone, they would call the last number on my phone log. I wasn’t a fan of this and accidently called people a few times when I thought I was turning the earphones off. When using it with music applications I could play and pause tracks by single clicking the center button.
     
    The “+” and “-” buttons controlled volume in both phone and music mode. In music mode, I could skip tracks by holding the “+” button and restart a track by holding the “-” button. The buttons responded great and without any glitches.
     
    NOTE: All buttons and functions are acknowledged with audio that is either a spoken command or audio tone (beeping noise) that plays through the earphones themselves. Wearing them while using the remote makes the earphones easier and more enjoyable to
    use.
     
    The range on these for me were apporximately 25 feet from the souce. After that distance the headset began to break up. The microphone worked well, and people I asked in conversation said that they initially couldn’t tell I was on a headset when we were chatting, and on a scale from 1-5 in terms of how clear I sounded on the phone, most gave it a 4 rating. Pretty good for a bluetooth headset!
     
     
    Sound Review & Materials
     
    I primarily did my demo with my LG-G3 smartphone with the latest firmware. For desktop use I used my Toshiba chromebook. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I make sure that anything I demo I have had enough time with to feel confident in my impressions and opinions.
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
     
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake
    “Madness” by Muse
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk
    “Some nights” by Fun
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie
    “One” by Ed Sheeran
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
     
     
    Sound Signature
     
    The BLU-100 sounded very good to my ears for the most part. The sound would be neutral to my ear if not for what appeared to be a mid-bass hump that made things sound a bit unnatural in male vocals, bass guitars, and some electric and acoustic guitars. I really enjoy them with female vocals, pop, acoustic, hip-hop and EDM, Theu seem to struggle with rock and alternative music. I got a slight hiss when playing music, and the occasional digital hiccup also occurred.

     
    Bass
     
    Bass on these peaks at around 200Hz to my ears, and rolls off to around 20Hz. It does work well with the earphone’s overall signature. I would like a little more sub layer and less mid-bass, but with the tuning as it is, I find it tolerable and enjoyable.
     
     
    Midrange
     
    Lower midrange takes the center stage on the BLU-100. It has nice texture at this range, at the expense of things sounding slightly unnatural to my ears. The upper mids seem polite and I really like the air between sounds in upper midrange frequencies. This probably the part of the sound I like the best. They are really well done here, and has a lot to do with why I like them with female vocals.
     
     
    Treble
     
    Treble is not extended and what is there is crisp. During complex musical passages the driver did begin to smear sounds in treble frequencies. With acoustic music, hip hop, pop, and EDM the treble response was pretty spot on for these genres.
     
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
     
    The soundstage takes a hit from the mid-bump and rolled off sub-bass. It does display adequate depth with bassy tracks, but tracks without a large amount of bass sound like they could use a low end bump. I would say though for a bluetooth IEM they are really good on a whole! At the price they are selling for, this has got to be about as good of an IEM as you can get at the current asking price.
     
     
    Comparisons
     
    Meelectronics Sport-Fi X7 ($80 to $100 USD on many sites)
     
    The Sport-Fi X7 was one of the best fitting IEMs I have ever had, so they get an advantage over the BLU-100 in this aspect. I will say, the aftermarket ear guides application really improved initial fit issues I experienced. Please also note that the X7 is nearly twice as expensive.
     
    Both models had about the same battery life. Charge times were also similar. The mic on the BLU-100 seemed to work better based on my testing.
     
    Both models basically operated the same in terms of the remote.
     
    Sound wise, the bass response was the opposite on these. The X7 had a very boosted sub bass layer that could get “boomy” sounding with some tracks. However, vocals sounded more natural all around. Male vocals were better with the X7, while female vocals sounded better and more holographic on the BLU-100. Bass heavy tracks suffered from too much boom with the X7, and just the opposite the BLU-100 sounded slightly thin with bass light stuff. It really is a toss up with these in term of what one you would like more, and comes down to signature preference. I prefer the X7 in terms of ergonomics and sound signature, but when you weigh in the price into it you can’t go wrong with these. They are definitely a better deal in terms of price.
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    The BLU-100 is a great first bluetooth earphone from Brainwavs that offers a phenomenal amount of technology at an extraordinary price. Nobody who buys these will feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth that’s for sure! The BLU-100 takes the budget-fi world to another level with a package that will turn heads, and not empty your wallets.
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. MartianMonkey
      I'm considering getting some of these, I'm not a big fan of the BT wireless sets when it comes to performance vs price. But these seem like they would be good for a budget set. I was just wondering which ear-guides you used to get a good fit? 
      MartianMonkey, May 19, 2015
    3. romeo1990
      A really nice read and review!
      romeo1990, May 20, 2015
    4. Hisoundfi
      @MartianMonkey over the last few years of buying IEMs, I've obtained several pairs. They are pretty generic and almost triangular in shape and made of rubber. The cable snugs inside of them and holds them in place. You can find them on many audio gear websites. If you can't find them anywhere PM me. I'll either find a link, or send you a free pair if you cover shipping. 
      Hisoundfi, May 20, 2015
  2. Tom22
    Ditch the cables, but not your money & Go Wireless with the BLU-100s! An Affordable pair of Bluetooth earphones
    Written by Tom22
    Published May 12, 2015
    3.5/5,
    Pros - affordable, bluetooth 4.0 & aptX compatibility, warm sound, (works seemlessly through android and iOS devices), good build quality
    Cons - lacking refinement and detail, a bit too warm for my tastes
    This is Brainwavz first step into the Bluetooth earphone world. It seems that Brainwavz is aiming to bring the all benefits of a typically expensive Bluetooth earphone into a very affordable package. (Its currently on sale for $34.50 on mp4nation, MSRP $45)
     
    Note- the earphone I’m discussing in this review is a preproduction sample that I was sent from Brainwavz, so I do not have all the accessories or the paperwork the earphone will come with once they hit the market. (They are available now). I should note that I’m affiliated with Brainwavz nor and I paid for this review. Everything in this review is my opinion and mine alone. With that said, lets get started. 
     
    Below is a link to my video review if your prefer : if you enjoy it, please like, share and subscribe!
    [​IMG]
     
     
     
     
    Design- Quite nice and low key, the housing is an entirely black barrel design with matte black strain reliefs and the Brainwavz logo on the left earpiece in white stencil. It’s quite sleek- looking and quite flattering.
    Overall: 7/10
    20150512_180636.jpg    20150512_180511.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Build quality- The BLU-100 is quite well built considering the price. The housing if I’m not mistaken is made of a lightweight metal (as it is cold it touch) with good strain reliefs, along with a flat tangle free cable. The remote buttons have good tactile feedback and well built.
    Overall: 8/10
     
    Bluetooth features- There is quite a lot to talk about here, for a sub $50, I can’t imagine an earphone having more features! I have decided to break down this section into multiple sub categories.
    You can watch my review to see how to set up your “Brainwavz BLU 100 earphone” or read the my simplified user manual below
    First, the BLU-100 comes with a 3 button remote sitting a few inches below the right earpiece, that is used to pair and connect the headset to either your smartphone, computer, or car (or anything else that is Bluetooth or aptX compatible). As a result this allows for seemingly endless options for its usage. 
    To turn on the earphones, you hold onto the centre button, until you hear a female voice saying “Power on”, this signals that the headset is ready to be paired with any Bluetooth enabled device. For example, with your smartphone’s  Bluetooth feature on,  it will be able to scan and detect the earphones, and it should be labeled as BLU- 100. Then all you do is pair it, and a voice will tell you the connection is successful. Then your good to go! (In retrospect, to turn off the Bluetooth headset, simply hold the centre/power button to turn it off, and your smartphone will revert back to its stock speakers). A painless process indeed!
     
    * Note the BLU-100 can pair up to two devices at the same time, once recognized. The headset will automatically pair with your device immediately once the Bluetooth is on.
     
    *note- the earphones may have some difficulty when the earphones do not have a clear line of sight with the paired device. as my music was cutting intermittently when my device was inside my bag, as i was practicing shooting drills at the basketball court. 
     
    *note when unobstructed, i was able to get about 15-20 feet effortless with only the occasional drop out from time to time
    20150512_180432.jpg    20150512_180242.jpg    20150512_180714.jpg
     
     
     
     
    Managing your music/media
    You can easily manage the volume of the earphones with the volume up and down button, and you can further increase the volume(separately) on your smartphone to get the Brainwavz BLU-100s to earsplitting levels if you so choose.
    To pause the song, you press the centre button, and press it again to resume. Next, Brainwavz decide to do things a bit differently but implementing the fast forward and rewind buttons onto the +/- volume buttons instead.
    To skip the song, you press and hold the + volume, to rewind you press and hold the – volume button.
    Overall: 8.5/10 (lots of features packed in small package)
     
    20150512_180217.jpg     20150506_211729.jpg
     
     
    Comfort- the earpiece housing is quite large and long (there are a lot of electronics going on, so I’m not surprised), with a short nozzle, however I was able to get an easy fit, whether I was wearing them cable down or up. The short cable can easily wrap around the back of neck, so it stays out of the way when I’m exercising or walking out and about, making me forget I was wearing earphones at times.
    Also Brainwavz included a pair of “fin” tips/ adapters that can further stabilize these earphones in your ear, during exercise. (They slip easily on and off the earphones)
    Overall: 7.5/10
     
    Isolation- From what I can tell, the housing is completely sealed, as a result I found that the isolation is above average, and it sealed quite well despite the size of the housing and the short nozzle.
    Something to note however is, that I would like to comment that I did experience a bit of driver flex from the earpieces because of the strong seal.
    Overall: 8/10
     
    Sound Quality-  As a Bluetooth earphone, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of its sound, due the Bluetooth compression, but I came away surprised with what it was able to achieve given its price point.
    It has quite consumer grade sound signature, as in it has quite a bassy response that I think the average consumer would find pleasing. It has a sound signature that works well when your on you’re the move, and in noisy environments.
     
    Bass- There is quite an emphasized bass, mostly in the midbass. The ample bass here means that you can easily feel the beat and the rhythm in your music even through the loud subway cars screeching or the noisy air conditioner.  I would say its nearing basshead in terms of quantity.
    Midrange- I found that is a dip in the midrange, mostly due to the aggressive bass response, vocals avoid any sense of harshness or edge. I did notice there is some coloration in the midrange so if you’re a purist, then these earphones may not be for you.
    Treble- The treble here makes even more certain that these earphones are tuned towards edm, dubstep and other more synthetic or electronic instruments. Giving way for energy over air and clarity, but without sounding brash or fatiguing. The BLU-100s are great companion especially when streaming off Youtube, or Spotify, where I imagine where the BLU-100 would be most frequently used.
    Overall: 6/10
     
    Conclusion- While it wouldn’t exceed its wired competitors in terms of sound, it does enough to sound pleasing for the everyday user. However, I feel that it more than makes up for that with the features at the price they are going for. There simply aren’t many Bluetooth earphones under $100, let alone under $50, i feel the BLU 100s is certainly a great way allow more people to be exposed with the freedom that comes with going wireless, without sacrificing much in terms of practicality. Just pair and go!
     
    Overall: 44.5/60= 74%
      Walderstorn likes this.
    1. Walderstorn
      Another good review from Tom, thumbs up!
      Walderstorn, May 13, 2015
    2. Tom22
      Tom22, May 14, 2015
    3. theinvertedsky
      Awesome! You have truly become one my favorite reviewers! I have been looking for something bluetooth and this seems to be it.
      theinvertedsky, Aug 6, 2015
  3. mark2410
    Brainwavz BLU-100 Quick Review by mark2410
    Written by mark2410
    Published May 11, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Bluetooth. Cheap. Sounds fun.
    Cons - Can’t use all day due to battery life.

    Brainwavz BLU-100 Quick Review
     
    Thanks to mp4nation for the review sample
     
    Full review here http://www.head-fi.org/t/766115/brainwavz-blu-100-review-by-mark2410
     
    Brief:  Uhura’s earphones.
     
    Price:  Normally US$34.50 / £22.40 but atm US$44.50 / £28.90
     
    Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 8mm, Rated Impedance: 30ohms Closed Dynamic, Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 20 ~ 20000Hz, Bluetooth 4.0 (CSRBC8645) with aptX, Operation max distance: 30ft (10m), Battery: 60mAh - 4hrs playtime, 100hrs standby, 2hrs for full charge (Micro USB charging), CVC echo and noise cancellation, Supports voice prompt for MMI: Power on - Paring - Connecting - Battery low - Power off, Supports HFP, HSP and A2DP, Supports pairing with two devices at the same time, 3 button remote, works with Apple iOS products, Android & Windows phones & PC
     
    Accessories:  Case, bunch of tips and a micro USB charging cable, velcro cable tie and some inner ear guide things.
     
    Build Quality:  Nice.  They feel very light given what they contain but you want light, so they don’t fall out.  Plastic but nicely put together.
     
    Isolation:  Pretty good for a dynamic towards the upper end.  So not quite Tube or long flight worthy but easily good enough for most stuff, walking, on a bus etc etc.  Just remember to use your eyes when using them.
     
    Comfort/Fit:  Very good.  Yes they are a bit big but they are so light that I never found them tug at my ears.  With the Comply’s in they were fine to use until the battery keeled over.
     
    Aesthetics:  Plain.  Inoffensive to the eye.
     
    Sound:  Pretty good.  The sound quality it pretty decent, its signature is a bit heavy on the mid/bass and there is a bit of a splashy upper vocal / lower treble range too.  The extension at either end is middling, though better at lows than the highest highs.  It’s the sort of thing that’s made for the top 40, well suited to bouncy poppy music that you listen to with enjoyment in mind.  If you want critical listening the BLU-100 isn’t what you would choose to do it with.  It’s good enough that you’ll be toe tapping away without realising, however where I think it shines most is in being rhythmic and lively.  You see, it’s hard to ignore that the 100 is wireless and I think it’s the ideal in gym or out jogging earphone.  It’s about giving you that little oomph needed to get you round the next corner or to do that next set of some gym activity.  At that it is great.  It’s a little warm but plenty bouncy and excitable.  It’s not the most refined, there is a bit of sibilant flair with the odd track at volume but it’s a crowd pleaser type of sound. 
     
    Slapping on Wallflower and even the Krall woman sounds pretty nice on them.  A bit bloated in the midbassy region but smooth and pleasant on the ear.  While they wouldn’t be my first choice, for their price together with being wireless I’m pretty damn pleased with their performance.
     
    Value:  Pretty crazy.  Not only does it sound decent its wireless too!
     
    Pro’s:   Bluetooth. Cheap. Sounds fun.
     
    Con’s:  Can’t use all day due to battery life.
    1. mark2410
      mark2410, Jun 18, 2015
  4. Brooko
    Brainwavz BLU-100 - Bluetooth on a budget
    Written by Brooko
    Published May 7, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Easy to use, warm signature that improves with simple EQ, good mid-range, lightweight, in-line controls and mic, good build quality, value.
    Cons - Comfort (personal), relatively short battery life, warm (bordering on dark) default tuning, dropouts in high traffic areas, LED hard to see
    blu-10001.jpg
    For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

    INTRODUCTION

    Brainwavz is a well-established manufacturer of headphones in the value for money category – offering many different options that suit almost anyone’s sonic preferences.  I’ve previously purchased their HM5 headphones and B2 earphones (both are IMO stellar performers and represent real value for money options).  I’ve also had the chance to review their M1, R1, R3, S0, S5 and R3 V2 IEMs, and the AP001 amplifier.
     
    I’ve had regular contact with Audrey from Brainwavz, and recently she asked me to consider being part of a review and launch of their first ever bluetooth earphones. This really did interest me, as I haven’t had the chance yet to try any actual Bluetooth wireless earphones, and I have seen this technology becoming more and more popular of late.
     
    So today we are looking at the Brainwavz BLU-100 headset. Audrey has told me to keep this pair as a loaner (which I’m very grateful for), and which I will use as a comparison earphone in any future reviews of similar products.
     
    I received the courier pack approximately one week ago – and have already spent as much time as I could with the BLU-100. I’d estimate that so far I’ve logged around 20 hours with it since it arrived.
     
    I’ve listed price at USD $44.50 (which is the intended RRP on release) – however this is not what I paid for them (they are a review sample).
     
    They can be found here : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YDVY34Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&keywords=bluetooth+earphones
     
    DISCLAIMER
     
    I was provided the BLU-100 by Brainwavz as part of a review program. I am not affiliated with Brainwavz in any way, nor do I make any financial gain from my contributions.  This is my honest opinion of the BLU-100.
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
     
    I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X3ii, X1 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X3ii > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and Brainwavz HM5.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan, Trinity Delta, and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).
     
    I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in audible burn-in (at least not the wild claims we all hear about massive changes), have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
     
    For the purposes of this review - I only used the BLU-100 with my iPhone 5S as it is the only bluetooth device I use regularly for audio. In the short time I have spent with the BLU-100, I have noticed only slight changes in the overall sonic presentation, but am aware that this is simply that I am becoming more used to the signature of the BLU-100 as I use them more often (brain burn-in).
     
    This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES          
     
    The review sample I have did not come with packaging, so I can’t really tell you about the intended retail box. So what we’ll start with is what I received:
     
    blu-10002.jpg blu-10003.jpg
    Brainwavz case & sticker
    Inside the case

     
    1. The BLU-100 head-set
    2. One USB to USB-mini plug (for recharging)
    3. One velcro cable tie
    4. 3 sets (S/M/L) silicone ear tips
    5. 1 set genuine Comply S400 foam tips
    6. 2 removable ear fins
    7. 1 standard Brainwavz red and black carry case.
    8. 1 Brainwavz sticker
     
    blu-10004.jpg blu-10005.jpg
    BLU-100 + accessories
    Accessories


     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
     
    (From Brainwavz)
    Type
    8mm Dynamic Driver
    IEM Shell Material
    Aluminium
    Cable Outer Material
    TPE
    On Cable Controls
    3 button control + mic
    Bluetooth Spec
    Version 4.0
    Chipset
    CSRBC8645
    Codec support
    APTX, HFP, HSP, A2DP
    Operating Range
    Up to 30 feet (10 meters)
    Battery
    60 mAh rechargeable
    Weight
    12 grams
    Operating Time
    4 hours
    Stand-by Time
    100 hours
    Charge Time
    ~ 2 hours

     
    In addition to the above, the BLU-100 has the ability to connect to 2 devices at the same time, has integration with iPhones (battery life is displayed in the iPhone), has CVC echo and noise cancellation, and has voice prompts for power on, pairing, connecting, battery low, and power off.
     
    FREQUENCY GRAPH
     
    As the BLU-100 is only being released now, there are no frequency graphs available yet.  So I’ve used my calibrated SPL meter plus test tones to measure frequency response and tabulate it.
    Hz
    60 Hz
    80 Hz
    100 Hz
    150 Hz
    200 Hz
    250 Hz
    300 Hz
    400 Hz
    500 Hz
    600 Hz
    700 Hz
    800 Hz
    900 Hz
    dB
    67.3
    68.5
    69.5
    71.2
    72.5
    73.5
    74.4
    75.5
    76.6
    77.3
    77.8
    78.1
    79.0
    Hz
    1 kHz
    2 kHz
    3 kHz
    4 kHz
    5 kHz
    6 kHz
    7 kHz
    8 kHz
    10 kHz
    12 kHz
    14 kHz
    16 kHz
    20 kHz
    dB
    80.0
    81.1
    86.8
    83.2
    78.4
    76.1
    75.1
    74.7
    69.0
    57.6
    48.7
    44.2
    42.1

     
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
     
    The Brainwavz BLU-100 consists of two earpieces connected by a ~ 60 cm cable with an integrated control switch (3 buttons and mic).  The earpieces are a fairly hefty size – measuring 25mm in length from base to tip of the nozzle, approx. 12mm diameter for the main part of the body, 9mm diameter for the section before the nozzle, and ~6mm diameter for the lip of the nozzle itself. The actual nozzle is pretty short – just 4mm from the center section to the nozzle tip, and has a built in fine mesh filter/wax guard.  For anyone wondering – the nozzle itself fits Comply 400 series tips perfectly. The BLU-100 is not ported or vented.
     
    blu-10006.jpg blu-10007.jpg
    BLU-100 - solid build
    BLU-100 nozzle and graduated tubular design

     
    The IEM casings actually look (and feel) like they’re made from a hard black plastic – but it’s actually a full aluminium housing – with the only plastic being the caps at the end.  The left earpiece has a fixed cap with the Brainwavz logo.  The right earpiece has a cap that lifts and rotates out to expose the charging USB port.

     
    The cable exits have good rubber strain reliefs.  Everything about this head-set so far seems pretty solid.
     
    blu-10008.jpg blu-10009.jpg
    Charging port
    The entire BLU-100 - lightweight

     
    The cable is flat, and encased in TPE.  It is nicely flexible with no memory.  It is also pretty non microphonic if worn over ear – however is quite microphonic if worn down.. The 3 button control and microphone hangs approximately 10 cm from the right earpiece.  The buttons are nicely labelled and feel solid.

     
    The microphone is pretty good quality – and I had no issues with making calls.  The comment I got back from the call recipient was that voice calls were very clear.
     
    blu-10010.jpg blu-10011.jpg
    3 button control
    Microphone

     

    My only real gripe on design so far is that there is a charging light built into the control module.  Unfortunately Brainwavz chose to use a small white LED, and you can’t really see it at all unless you are in an extremely low-light environment.  A small blue, red or green LED would have been far easier to see.
     
    FIT / COMFORT / ISOLATION
     
    I have one ear canal slightly different to the other one (my right is very slightly smaller) - so I tend to find that usually single silicon flanges don't fit overly well.  I initially tried the included large silicones and I couldn’t get a consistently decent fit or seal. I also tried my Sony Isolation tips – and while they were perfect with my left ear, my right ear had the tendency to seal too well (create a vacuum), and this would cause a vacuum cut-out sometimes (a symptom of not enough ventilation of the driver).  There was also some mild driver flex. Spiral dots and Spinfits were next – but neither gave me consistent fit/seal (again my weird ears) – the Spinfits definitely sounded the best though. Finally I settled on a pair of large Comply T400S – and these gave me the perfect combination of comfort, seal and consistency (no flex).
     
    blu-10012.jpg blu-10013.jpg
    Large T400S sports tips fitted
    The BLU100 is a long IEM

     

    Insertion depth with the BLU-100 is medium depth (cable up), or slightly shallower (cable down) – depending on the cable orientation. Unfortunately with the width of the earphones themselves, these don’t “disappear” when worn – and at times I’ve found my ears uncomfortable after a couple of hours – usually where the housing has pushed against me ear canal openings. They also sit slightly outside my outer ears when worn, so sleeping on my side is not the most comfortable (pressure on the ear opening). Saying this though – I have been to sleep a couple of times with them in-situ.  The price I’ve paid is sore ears on waking.
     
    Isolation with the BLU-100 is pretty good for a dynamic driver.  With music playing you’re isolated pretty well. When walking I definitely need to be aware (visually) of what I’m doing – as I definitely wouldn’t hear something coming!
     
    blu-10014.jpg blu-10015.jpg
    Fin stabiliser system
    Fins are adjustable and removable

     

    The BLU-100 can be worn cable up or down.  If you use them cable down, the control unit does sit closer to where the mouth should be (for the mic), and to assist with stability, Brainwavz have included a couple of fins which are designed to sit inside the Anti-helix.  These work pretty well, and stabilise the BLU-100 quite nicely.  My issue with cable down still remains the microphonics though – and my preferred method remains over-ear, with the cable draped behind my neck
     
    CONTROLS AND OPERATION
     
    The control system on the BLU-100 is pretty easy to learn, and set-up for me was a breeze.
     
    Pairing / Initial Set-Up
    Initial pairing couldn’t have been easier.
     
    • Make sure Bluetooth is active on the iPhone
    • Turn on the BLU-100, by pressing and holding the middle button
    • This gives vocal feedback – firstly “power on” then “pairing”
    • Select the BLU-100 on the phone.  The next voice prompts you get is “connecting”, and then the phone shows the head-set as connected.
    • After that simply select your music app – and press play.
     
    After that – as soon as the head-set is turned on, the phone remembers the pairing automatically.
     
    Audio Playback Controls
    Again, these are very simple. We’ll call the buttons top center and bottom.  Center button turns the BLU-100 off and on (long hold).  When it’s on, press the center button once (assuming app on your bluetooth audio device is running) to play, or once to pause/stop. The top bottom raises the volume.  The bottom button lowers the volume.  Pressing and holding (for around 3s) the top button advances one track.  Pressing and holding the bottom button go back to the previous track.
     
    Again – really simple.
     
    Phone Interaction – Calls
    If your mobile supports voice dialing, this can be activated from the headset by pressing and holding either the top or bottom button for slightly longer than 3s.  This initially advances the track – but shortly after activates voice dialing. This does work on the iPhone (activates Siri).
     
    Other than that, the center button answers a call and also terminates after you’ve finished.  You can also choose to reject a call, choose between 2 paired mobiles, and activate redial.  I won’t go into all of this here – as full instructions are in the manual.
     
    Other – Battery Meter (iPhone)
    One of the things I really love is the connectivity with the iPhone.  In the top right corner or my phone – between the bluetooth icon and phone battery % meter is a new icon (a small battery).  This is the headset battery status indicator – and shows the status of the battery remaining on the head-set.  This has been really handy as the battery life is pretty limited (around 4 hours active) – so it makes it really easy to ensure I’m always charged up and ready to go.
     
    blu-10018.jpg
     
    Annoyances
    The biggest one for me (other than the cut-outs in the next section) is the default volume of the vocal feedback from the unit.  No matter what your volume setting – the default voice is loud.  Not deafening loud – just annoying loud.  I wish there was a way to turn her down.  The vocal feedback is good – the volume could be worked on.
     
    CONNECTIVITY AND BLUETOOTH PERFORMANCE
     
    Brainwavz lists the operating range as “up to 30 feet / 10 meters”, but in reality with the iPhone 5S (using the A2DP codec), reliable connection was around 5 meters.  After that, things got pretty flakey in a hurry.  Performance may be better on other phone models – but for me anyway, the ideal is having your phone in your pocket while you’re wearing the head-set.  This is not a deal-breaker, as I’d imagine this is how most of us will operate the BLU-100 anyway.
     
    Most of the time when I was out and about, the overall connectivity was actually pretty good.  Occasionally I’d get a bit of glitching (short drop out for a micro second), but nothing too annoying.  However when I went to my daughter’s netball tournament in the weekend, I took the BLU-100 and ended up turning them off.  The phone was in my pocket – so no issues with range.  But there was an issue with the number of people around, and (I’m guessing) the number of bluetooth enabled phones.  Drop-outs were frequent, and annoying.
     
    So mixed feeling on stability – hopefully as Bluetooth gets better these sort of incidents will get fewer.  What I have loved though is going for a walk (exercise) in the evenings.  No cable to contend with, not a lot of people around, and pretty good connectivity.
     
    SOUND QUALITY
     
    So we’ve covered a lot of the BLU-100. But how does it sound?
     
    The following is what I hear from the Brainwavz BLU-100.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).
     
    I’m going to get pretty general with this section – but if you want to see some of the typical tracks I test with, I’ve listed a lot of them here : http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    Thoughts on Default Signature
     
    The BLU-100 is obviously tuned for today’s younger generation and has a typical warm, slightly bassy, slightly dark signature.  It does possess a nice mid-range – quite clear, and quite articulate – but the issue for me is that the mid bass and lack of treble extension just makes it an overly warm and lush listening experience. It’s simply not a default signature I like.
     
    Tracks like Gaucho and Sultans of Swing still have a lot of detail, but some of it is muted by the warmer and more present mid-bass, and Knopflers guitar misses its customary crunch.
     
    Staging and imaging also suffers with this warmish, darkish signature. Amber Rubarth’s “Tundra” is quite close, the drums are overstated and the violin is slightly understated.  General direction is there – but it is all somewhat diffuse.
     
    Mark Lanegan’s “Bleeding Muddy Water” is my usual go to for bass quality and quantity – and the BLU-100 definitely nails the quantity.  The bass is dark, broody and has good impact.  But it’s also slightly muddy, and has the tendency to want o leech into the lower mid-range.  All-in-all though, with this track it’s not too much of an issue.  Lorde’s “Royals” has become my test for sub-bass, and once again the BLU-100 hits the bass really well.  Sub-bass is present but it’s kind of diffuse, and not what I’m used to.  Quantity of bass is definitely nailed – unfortunately it comes at the cost of quality. The good thing though is that Ella’s vocals remain really good on this track, so the bass bleed is only really affecting the lower mid-range.
     
    Moving to female vocals, the BLU-100 has a really nice mid-range, and this is where the peak around 3kHz seems to be really helping.  The overall presentation is still far darker than I really like, but most of my female artists sound pretty good – and some tracks with a lot of bass impact (Feist / FaTM) do sound pretty dynamic.
     
    Moving to Rock – and whilst the bass is really good, sometimes the finer details, and guitar edge or crunch is simply muted. There are some tracks that still sound pretty good though – and my Pearl Jam tracks are amongst the good ones. So a bit hit and miss.
     
    I could cover all the genres I tried at this point – but the message will be the same throughout.  The default signature does sound good with some tracks (and this includes general Pop, EDM, Trance and Hip-hop), but on a lot of reference tracks the BLU-100 struggles.
     
    Equalisation (turning night into day)
     
    One of the great things about the iPhone (when I get dark IEMs) is the ability to use the Accudio Pro app, and download and apply corrections for other dark sounding earphones – to fix the imbalances that mar the enjoyment of the default signature.
     
    So to start with, I used a preset I’d already downloaded – the Senneheiser CX300 correction.  This takes a lot of the sub-bass out and allows the mid-range freedom to become the start of the show.  Unfortunately this preset also took out too much sub-bass, but it did show how beautiful the mid-range is. So I switched instead to the LCD-2 correction, and this was a lot closer to my ideal.  The mid-bass had lessened, but the sub-bass remained.
     
    The aim though was (now that I knew we could tame the default signature) to come up with something simple the average iPhone user could utilise. For me this was pretty simple – just use the default music app, and turn on either the bass reducer preset, or if this is too much (it was for me) – use the Acoustic preset (this was perfect). Both give the BLU-100 a reduction in the mid-bass, and allow the amended signature to shine.  For me this makes the BLU-100 a very enjoyable IEM to listen to – so much so that it could easily become my preferred option for regular exercise.  The other thing I’d like to mention at this point is how good the overall quality is over Bluetooth (once EQ’d).
     
    BATTERY PERFORMANCE
     
    The stated 4 hours (actual use) does seem to be pretty accurate – and although it sounds relatively short, for the times I’m using the BLU-100, it actually seems like a relatively long time. This is helped a lot by the 2 hour charge time. Would I like longer life – yes – I’m sure we all would.  Is it a deal breaker – not for me. For the low cost of the BLU-100, I can adapt.
     
    blu-10016.jpg

    BRAINWAVZ BLU-100 – SUMMARY

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into the world of bluetooth head-sets. It has opened my eyes to the future possibilities, and the freedom of going wireless.
     
    Giving the BLU-100 an end of review mark is an interesting exercise though.
     
    On the plus side – very good build quality, easy to use, pretty good value at around $45.00, and sounds really good after EQ.
     
    On the minus – the large shells can be uncomfortable, the default signature is too dark and warm (I readily agree though – I am not Brainwavz target audience), it suffers connectivity issues at relatively short distances, and has issues with interference and drop-outs in high traffic areas.
     
    So from me a solid 3/5 – good, but not great.
     
    My thanks once again to Brainwavz for having me as part of the reviewing team.
     
    RECOMMENDATIONS BLU-100
     
    The following would be my recommendations for changes in future models.
    • Change the default signature – please.  Just take out some of the mid-bass.  No part of the signature should mask another frequency IMO. The BLU-100 are simply too warm.
    • Change the shell to something more ergonomic. As an example – the shell of the S5 (even if you had to make it larger) would be perfect. An angled nozzle with most of the IEM sitting in the natural cavity of the ear – bliss on the comfort stakes.
    • Give the ability to change the default vocal feedback volume – or set the default lower.  It doesn’t need to be that loud.
    • Change your LED to a different colour than white.
     
    FOOTNOTE
     
    I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this review doesn't think I'm being too negative with the BLU-100.  I actually really like the EQ'd signature, and I'm using these quite a bit, even though I have a multitude of other IEM at my disposal. This has been my first foray into wireless earphones, and I've really enjoyed it, and will likely keep using these from time to time.  But I am interested now to see how Brainwavz can improve them.  If they could change the shell shape to an ergonomic comfortable one - they would be in my regular rotation.  I've even used these today at work for a few hours already [​IMG] 
     
    blu-10017.jpg
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    1. View previous replies...
    2. Hisoundfi
      I swear on everything I didn't read this before posting my review, but our comparisons are eerily similar. Great review Paul, you do a great job covering all aspects of a review.
      Hisoundfi, May 13, 2015
    3. Brooko
      Thanks Vince - I just read yours. Nice that there is a consensus forming.  Usually means we've read the sonics pretty well.
      Brooko, May 13, 2015
    4. zzffnn